Tuesday, 23 October 2007
Dáil Eireann Debate
134. Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the proposals he envisages in advance of the referendum on the European treaty to address the issue of the accountability deficit in relation to European Union decision making in general and CFSP in particular. [24985/07]
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Dermot Ahern): A key purpose of the new Reform Treaty is to enhance the democratic legitimacy of the Union. With this aim in mind, the Treaty provides for a stronger role for the European Parliament by extending the number of areas of EU legislation to be decided by co-decision between the Parliament and the Council of Ministers.
The Houses of the Oireachtas and other national Parliaments throughout the Union currently receive Commission proposals directly from the Commission itself. The Reform Treaty will strengthen current subsidiarity arrangements by giving national Parliaments longer to respond to Commission proposals and by increasing the onus on the Commission to take their reasoned opinions into account. This so-called “yellow card” system is a positive development which will enhance accountability and democratic legitimacy within the Union.
Our own European Union (Scrutiny) Act has operated successfully for over five years in providing a national framework for parliamentary oversight of proposed EU measures. In relation to CFSP measures, the Scrutiny Act applies to proposed Joint Actions and proposed Common Positions. My Department takes the lead on these issues and informs the Oireachtas as to the content, purpose and the national implications of all such measures.
56 such proposals were scrutinised in detail in 2006. In view of the specific nature of CFSP proposals, the Department from time to time has recourse to the provisions for confidentiality and urgency which are provided for in the Act.
I also meet regularly with the Joint Committee on European Affairs, in advance of each meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council, in order to brief members on items to be discussed, the majority of which usually relate to CFSP issues.
I particularly welcome the proposed new Joint Committee on European Scrutiny with which my Department and I will fully co-operate so as to ensure that the 30th Dáil continues to have its voice fully heard in relation to European affairs and EU legislation.
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